Coaching Websites – The Do’s and Don’ts of Success


laptopCan an incredible coaching site actually lead to great success for your coaching business?

The short answer is . . . it depends. What does it depend on? Mostly you! A great coaching site, like any tool, used correctly and effectively, can magnify your efforts. 

Let’s be honest though. Websites themselves are not enough to make you a success or a failure. Telling you that having the perfect website will turn your coaching practice into a multi-million dollar venture overnight would be like me telling you that a beautiful business card will make the difference between overall success and failure – it’s a simplistic viewpoint of a very complex and multifaceted issue. Any tool, no matter how great, is at the end of the day just that: a tool. Having the perfect business card – the kind of card that sticks in people’s minds and makes them remember you – will do you no good if it never leaves your wallet.

 Unfortunately this is how many coaches approach their website. They’ll go out and give thousands of dollars to a developer to create an amazing site for them from scratch with every bell and whistle they could ever dream of and then walk away from it never to think about it again after it’s live. Even the most expensive set of knives will not cook your meal for you – yet they can help you more safely and effectively create delicious dishes along with high quality ingredients and a great cook book.

Your website is a powerful tool that when used in combination with various other activities, can help your coaching practice achieve notoriety and solid growth. My hope in this article is to layout all the things I’ve seen coaches do with their websites that have led to huge success as well practices that either waste time or actually get in the way of success.

 Here’s to shooting for immense success in your practice!

 

Do Focus More on Your Visitors and Less on Yourself

dog welcome home entranceWhen I read a lot of coach websites, I see more talk about them than their customer. I’m not surprised by this, but I am disappointed. The reason I’m not surprised is that most of our educational training when it comes to writing is focused on ourselves. In school we’re often asked to write about what we think about this topic or that, how we feel, and what goals and dreams do we have. Years of self-indulgent academic essays and personal journals have trained us to write with ourselves as the focal point. Yet business is a different animal and the job is to make your clients feel like they are the only ones who matter in your eyes, not yourself.

 Whether you’re just starting to write the content for your website or plan to go through and revise it, make sure it’s customer focused. Sure, you’ll want to do your best to convince the visitor to your website that YOU are the coach they should hire, but rest assured, if you answer questions in your content that your visitors didn’t even know they had about themselves, you’ll do a much better job convincing them of your wisdom and expertise than by writing a lengthy bio about why you’re so great.

 

Don’t Sit Back Waiting for Clients to Email You

Labrador dolce far nienteSo you got your website up, made your business cards, and registered your coaching practice as a limited liability company. Time to break out the lemonade, sit out on the porch and wait for the phone to ring eh?

Not exactly.

Of course I’m sure the last statement above never crossed your mind – after all, you’re someone who helps people take action and manifest your dreams – but a subtler version of the above statement can creep into the minds of the best of us! I’ve seen it to software developers, artists, and coaches alike who don’t have a comprehensive marketing plan, but just put up their website in the hopes that it will magically do the work of getting paying clients for them. As one of my favorite celebrity entrepreneurs, Noah Kagen, phrases it: a lot of people like to “play entrepreneur.”

Don’t Let This Happen To You

One way to avoid catching the playing entrepreneur virus is to create a comprehensive marketing plan for your coaching practice. Ideally, you’ll want to do this before even creating your website, but if you already have your website, now is still the right time to create your marketing plan.

 

Do Create a Comprehensive Marketing Plan

What is a marketing plan?

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A comprehensive marketing plan is like a business plan, but focused all on marketing. Your plan should lay out strategic actions you plan on taking over the next year to put your practice on the map. Too many coaches fail to effectively strategize their journey to success and assume that word of mouth marketing will be enough to supply them with a steady income from their coaching practice. I’ve known a few coaches who have successfully made full-time income from word of mouth alone, however one pattern that I’ve noticed with such coaches is that they were natural marketers and weren’t shy to mentioned their coaching practice to nearly everyone they came into contact with. If this is you: great. However, if you’re less likely to pass out your business card to everyone you meet in a restaurant, café, or networking event, then you need to develop a marketing plan.

What are some key elements your marketing plan should include?

 Make sure your marketing plan includes at least the following:

  • Description of your target market:
    • Describe in detail your typical client and get as specific as you can. Who are they? Where do they hang out? What types of blogs, magazines, newspapers, do they read regularly? What is their occupation and how much money do they earn on average? What is their sex, ethnicity, religion, etc.?

Does this sound like an uncomfortable? If so, challenge yourself to continue with the exercise with the understanding that the more blanket assumptions you make about your potential client, the more opportunities you’ll get to test whether your assumptions about them are true or not. If you find your assumptions were right, you’ll know exactly where to find your clients and how to offer them your services. If your assumptions are wrong, you’ll be that much closer to understanding them down the road.

  • Describe your unique value offering
    • This should include what you’re offering to your clients and how exactly you plan to differ from other coaches in terms of what you’re providing. Why should they choose you over your competitor?
    • Describe your competitors:
      • Find three of your best competitor coaches serving your niche and write down the type of clients they serve and how they seem to be marketing to their clients.
      • Don’t believe you have competitors? You probably haven’t looked hard enough
      • Don’t like the concept of competitors or even the term competition? Find a better phrase for “competitor” and continue with the exercise. Competitor just means an alternative to you.
  • Brainstorm marketing channels and techniques
    • On a blank piece of paper, write out all the ideas you have for marketing – be as wild and creative as you can and make sure to write down every crazy idea that comes to you including hiring a pilot to write the name of your coaching practice in the sky in smoke on New Years Day
    • If you’re stuck, consider how you can utilize guest blogging, online or print advertisements in niche magazines, and consider giving away free services at local events – you’ll learn a lot from the experience about what people are looking for and what they find valuable enough to pay for
  • Map out your best ideas
    • Take what you’ve brainstormed and write the best of them in chronological order of what you plan to do to market your practice. Make sure to put a deadline date by which time you want each task to be completed.
    • Transfer the dates and task to your calendar and set digital reminders if you’re using an electronic calendar

Read more about how to create a marketing plan.

 

Don’t Spread Yourself Thin

dog psychologyDuring college I used to drive past a fast food restaurant on a certain corner that sold Chinese food, donuts, and hamburgers – all in the same restaurant. Needless to say that after 4 years of driving by that place, I never once stopped in to try any of their offerings. If I wanted a burger, Chinese food, or donuts I preferred going to three separate places that specialized in those things, not one that sold all three. Not surprisingly, the restaurant was always empty every time I drove by.

I see a lot of coaches make the same mistake with their coaching websites – they try to offer too many different and unrelated services on the same website. Don’t confuse your website visitors with an array of services. Instead of impressing them with your large range of offerings, they’re likely to have the opposite reaction.

Isn’t it better to show your client that you’re incredible at one thing than mediocre at five different things?

Steve Jobs gave a presentation in the late 90s to Apple engineers shortly after retaking control of the company after being gone for 10 years. His primary message to his engineers was that he planned to cut 60-80% of the products Apple was making at the time and focus instead on making two or three really amazing products. He stressed the importance of saying “No” to a number of products that were a distraction from Apple’s core competency – making beautiful and easy to use computers. This philosophy at Apple was the start of one of the most successful turnarounds of almost any company to date.

If your website includes business coaching plus personal life coaching plus another page that describes your bodywork practice, you might want to consider streamlining the focus of your website to just one or two specialties – preferably the ones that bring you the most income and/or are the most fulfilling for you.

 

Do Build Your Email List (Your Tribe)

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This is a biggie. So many of our clients plan to start an email list one day, but never seem to get around to it. I know, it feels like a big commitment, you’ve just gone through all the hard work of putting your website together, filling it with awesome information and content, and now you’re supposed to create a Mailchimp or Aweber account and start collecting emails? For what? What are you going to say to these people on your list anyway?

The thought of a large audience of people eager to read your weekly email can feel overwhelming – for many it’s a little like public speaking in that there’s a nervousness about your message being accepted or not by your peers. Thankfully, you at least don’t have to be in the same room as your audience. Nonetheless, you’re still putting yourself out there into the world.

Additionally, all of us are probably on at least one mailing list that we wish we weren’t. No matter how many times we try to unsubscribe, they just keep on coming and trying, pleading, begging for us to buy their new program or product! Who wants to be that person – desperately trying to pedal his or her wares? I certainly don’t, and I know that in the coaching world, where authenticity and truth is what counts, it’s less than exciting to even consider the idea of being a scammy salesperson.

Yet Building a Tribe is A Must for Coaching Websites

Ok, so we’ve gone over all the reasons why you’ve put it off, but let’s face it, these excuses are not going to get you one step closer to new clients. The truth is that you need a way to build your tribe. A tribe is your audience, your people, those who respect and listen to you. Your tribe is the group of people who are going to do that word of mouth marketing you know is so important.

Why bother with a tribe? Why not just put your coaching packages up on your site and call it a day?

Think about it this way: coaching is a very personalized service. It’s not like getting your oil changed on your car. You can take your car to any old mechanic and feel fairly confident that your car will still work fine afterwards. Even so, look how weary customers are even about something relatively unimportant such as whether to go to Jiffy Lube or Pep Boys for their oil change. People will ask their friends and read reviews on the internet just to make sure they can trust their local mechanic. If that’s how careful people are about a $30 service, how much more scrutinizing do you think people are about hiring a personal coach?

Ask yourself this question: if you had an issue in your life that you needed help with and you came across a coaching website for someone you had never heard of or met before, what’s the likelihood on a 1 to 10 basis that you would call them that moment to schedule a non-free appointment? Everyone’s different, but for me, I’d probably say it was a 1-3 for me, depending on the extremity of my problem and how convinced I was that they could help me. I don’t know this person from Adam, I’ve heard nothing good or bad about them, why should I risk calling someone I don’t know to help me? What about emailing them? What’s the chance that you would email them right away? For me, this might be a 3 or 4, but most likely I would probably just bookmark the website and hopefully not forget about them.

Now, what’s the likelihood, from 1 to 10, that you would go to their coaching packages page, choose a paid package, and send them hundreds of dollars for a coaching session. Again, while we’re all different, the likelihood of me doing this is probably a 0 (or less). I simply wouldn’t spend a dime before I had a good feeling that this person was worth my time and money – that they had some credibility in my eyes and that other people like myself attested to that credibility.

Back to Tribes. This is why building a tribe is so important – because almost no one signs up for your services or even reaches out via email or phone on the first visit to your website. It just doesn’t happen statistically if you start to actually observe it. This doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be willing to pay for your services, it just means that they’re unlikely to pay for them the first time they meet you (aka visit your site). Perhaps they get to your site through a random Google search or a post that they saw on Facebook with a link to your site. They may arrive at your site, but forget to ever return again. Why risk losing the opportunity to build a relationship with them? Why risk losing the opportunity to show them how much you know your stuff? It’s almost ludicrous to build a coaching website and then not ask visitors who you’ve worked so hard educating with your great content to voluntarily leave some way of being contacted so that you can invite them into your tribe!

I just signed up for some business coaching a few weeks back and spent a good amount of money for only 30 minutes of this coach’s time. What’s interesting about it is that I’ve been apart of his tribe for over 6 months. I’ve been inspired by his newsletters, taken action on his suggestions, and seen great results. At this point, I feel very strongly that he’s deeply experienced and has much to offer. Would I feel this way about him if I went to his website one time? NO! I would probably have checked out his site once and never returned again. Thanks to his newsletters, I’m now a fan. Nonetheless, it still took me over 6 months of reading his great stuff to finally decide to try one of his coaching programs.

 

Don’t Sell Me Too Much At Once

Fotolia_47366927_XS-v2And when I say “me,” of course I mean your clients. Quite often I’ll get a newsletter that inform me about too many things going on at once. For instance, I’ll learn about a coach’s 5 upcoming events, their favorite quote of the week, all the recent news that’s been going on since their last newsletter, and 2 special programs that they’re offering at discounted prices for the next month. That’s over 7 calls-to-action and a dozen other things that I’m expected to look at while quickly glancing through their email on my smart phone. Just to clarify, a call to action is a link or button where I’m being asked to signup for something, pay for a program, or view a website – basically to take the action that the business owners wants me to take.

When I get a newsletter like this with an overwhelming number of choices to act on, which one do I usually choose? Most of the time, it’s none of them. Why? It could be because I’m not interested in any of them, but it also could be that they’ve tried to market over 7 things to me at once and thus in my eyes the value of any one item is 1/7 what it could have been if there was one clearly defined call to action.

Remember that we’re all very busy these days. Even if your clients are retired with no children to raise and get to spend the majority of their days in leisure, don’t forget that you are always going to be competing with about 1000 other business owners out there for their attention every day. Your competitors may not be other coaches sending newsletters – they may be companies advertising on a billboard, offering a killer deal at the end of an aisle in Target, or a simple banner ad they notice while browsing the net. I’m not suggesting that you shift your strategy and decide to compete head-to-head with Proctor and Gamble for the attention of your audience, but you can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your newsletters by choosing one thing to talk about and making it highly interesting, helpful, and provide one clear action for your readers to take if they’re interested in learning more.

 

Coaching Websites Need Feedback: Do Ask For It!

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One common mistake I see with newly established coaching websites is a plethora of little mistakes and bugs. By mistakes I mean spelling mistakes and typos found throughout the content, headings, and forms. These are super easy to make for anyone, no matter how great of a writer you are, especially when writing copy for a website. It’s so easy to change things in the digital web age compared the old days when you’d have to reprint that brochure or even worse, retype that memo! It’s easy to hit the Edit link and update awkward phrasing in a jiffy, but this is where most of the typos come in.

After you’ve written and added some substantial content to your coaching website, have a friend or family member carefully read through your pages to make sure everything looks ok from a grammatical and flow perspective.

Imagine it: perhaps your About Me page is describing your impressive writing career as a contributing author to a number of reputable periodicals and the high quality of work you produce yet it’s filled with typos – what better way to knock off several points of credibility in an instant.

Of course don’t go overboard – there’s a difference between examining your website’s pages with a fine tooth comb and doing the same for every blog post you throw up. In my opinion, as a business owner you have to choose your battles and conserve energy where you can. Obviously site pages are the most vital real estate on your site to be concerned about regarding grammar and typos, but should the same oversight be applied to blog posts as well? Personally I say no, but this is ultimately a decision you’ll need to decide on for yourself. In my opinion, people are much more forgiving when it comes to a weekly blog or newsletter than they are for the main pages of your website in terms of grammar.

Finally, bugs are often overlooked when new sites are erected. Make sure that you ask friends or trusted associates to fill out all forms on your website and try signing up for your newsletter. They’ll often catch things that you didn’t when you went through the process of opting in for your newsletter.

 

You’re Ready for Prime Time!

graduated dog with diplomaHopefully you’ve found these Dos and Don’t helpful in either developing your new coaching website or redeveloping an existing site. I always love to hear feedback, differing opinions, and other suggestions with any of my writings, so if you have a comment, I’d love if you’d leave one below and let me know what you think!

At YourCoachSite, we’re committed to making the process of creating coaching websites super easy, fun, and hassle-free. I’d encourage you to try out a coaching website at YourCoachSite and allow us to help you get started on building a beautiful, fully featured website in a snap!

 

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